Montana Treasures | Archie Bray

The weird and wonderful Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts defies description. It was established by Archie Bray as a center for “all who are interested in the ceramic arts” in 1951t. At any one time, the Bray is the home to 10-12 of the worlds best ceramic artists, who receive year-long fellowships to stay at the Bray, experiment, and hone their craft. These residents also offer classes to the general public, giving the amateur potters of Helena access to an extraordinary wealth of knowledge. In a nutshell, that is what the Foundation does, it provides a space for anyone interested in ceramics to learn and experiment.

But what is the Bray? Located in the old Western Clay Manufacturing Company west of Helena, the Bray is an ecclectic mix of pre-war industrial buildings set in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, as the the river bottom transitions into mountain prairie. The old brick kilns with their jumble of outbuildings and brick smokestack–even piles of discarded bricks–remind visitors of the sites industrial past. But, throughout and around the center, generations of artists have left their mark.

Ceramic spools and tops, faces, beads, teapots and bowls, abstract sculptures and detailed figures are scattered across the site, sprouting from the most surprising nooks and crannies like so many strange and wonderful mushrooms. To simply wander through the site is to be delighted by the odd, the unique, the beautiful.

But, of course, there is more. In addition to the the workshops and classes, the residents spend most of their days creating new works, and they are often happy to pause and have a chat. There are also frequent exhibits–brand new works from the artists-in-residence, as well as pieces from the Bray’s permanent collection.  There are courses for children, experts, and everyone in between (at the moment, the classes have moved online). 

The Archie Bray is Montana at its finest. Set in a beautiful landscape, the Bray uses the state’s industrial past to create something new, creative, and eccentric.

You can find the Archie Bray on Country Club Ave, just past Spring Meadow Lake

The grounds are free to visit and most exhibitions are free as well.


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